The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Export anything to a friendly country except American management

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One of the reasons quotes by W. Edwards Deming are so popular is that he had an incredible understanding of the practice of management. Another reason they are popular is he had a sense of humor that was captured well in several popular quotes.

Image with the quote: "Export anything to a friendly country except American management." W. Edwards Deming

This quote is included on the back of The Deming Management Method by Mary Walton. W. Edwards Deming understood humor was sometimes a good way to push for change. This quote is a good example of that.

Dr. Deming felt a great desire to improve people’s lives by improving the workplace. I discussed my belief on what might have created this strong desire in him in the first blog post on this blog.

In this quote he was criticizing management in the USA in order to try and spark a desire to improve the sorry state of management practice in the USA in the 1980s. I think things are better today, but not nearly good enough. And not nearly what he would have expected decades after he uttered that quote.

Part of the reason improvement has been so slow is that while many people seem to like sharing such quotes with their friends and colleagues very few people dig into the context of his quotes in order to learn how to actually improve. Humor is useful is piquing people’s interest. Sadly even if thousands of people appreciate and share such a quote, very few actually think about what they can do in their organization to improve the situation. Some people do, and that is wonderful.


Hopefully the next few decades will bring more improvement to the practice of management than they last few have. However I don’t see much other than hope to pin such statement on. There is usually a bit of interest among Deming practitioners (and some others doing great, and similar, work to improve the practice of management that are more aligned with lean thinking and agile software development and such things) in what methods will lead to better results in transforming the practice of management on a large scale. I discuss methods to use to improve the practice of management in this blog (and share other’s ideas from our conference presentations, podcasts and related articles and books).

But in truth, in my opinion, while there is a great deal of good work on methods to use to help people improve the practice of management the methods to use to convince people that they should be dissatisfied with the current state of affairs and seek to improve is still not very effective. We need to keep working on how to turn people’s appreciation for the sentiments captured in Dr. Deming’s quotes into action that leads to better management of our organizations.

Related: How to Increase the Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your OrganizationDiscovering Deming: Cultural Evolution at PluralsightWhat to Do To Create a Continual Improvement CultureQuality Beginnings: Deming and Madison, WisconsinGrowing Your Circle of InfluenceBill Scherkenbach Interview with Dr. Deming

We try to include a source for all the quotes we include on our W. Edwards Deming quotes web site in order to make it easy for people to learn more about what he meant and how they can use the insight shared in the quote to improve management in their organization. We also provide links to online resources related to the theme of the quote. As we mention on that web site, we don’t always have confirmed sources for the quotes (we are continuing to try and find them): many of Dr. Deming’s memorable quotes are from the many public seminars and consulting engagements he was involved in. Since those were not all written down in an article or a book it isn’t as easy as just searching the text of his written work.


Categorised as: Dr. Deming, psychology


One Comment

  1. Easily my most favorite Deming quote. I share the same pain of trying to come up with a way of changing traditional management thinking. We’re all prisoners of our culture, ideas, and success. Very tricky. Its one of the biggest things I think about. I wonder if we could find guest posters who have had experiences in successful change. Currently I’m trying to use Kanban with a strong dose of Deming to try to get my organization to change.

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